Proprietor: Robert Gilvesy
Founded: 2012
Website: Gilvesy Winery
Country Location: Hungary

Mixing both new and old technology, honing in on the best volcanic terroirs, and farming organically, Robert Gilvesy’s hospitality and openness to collaboration is an important piece in rebuilding the amazing wine culture along the lake.

From Szent Gyorgy hegy
Looking toward Lake Balaton from Szent Gyorgy hegy

The Appellation

Lake Balaton, affectionately called the Great Hungarian Sea is perhaps the most iconic tourist destination in the country. The 50 mile long lake’s skyline along the northern shore is defined by massive basalt “witness peaks” covered in vineyards and small cellars. One particular basalt protrusion within the Badacsony region is the Szent György-hegy (Hegy means “hill” in Hungarian). Home to Gilvesy winery and with more churches than other growing region along the Balaton, there is something singularly special about this place.

Szent György-hegy has been known for quality wines since Roman times. The area was originally part of the Pannonian sea, and as the sea began to recede roughly 4 million years ago, there was a flurry of volcanic activity. Lava pushed its way through the ancient sea sediment and formed the aforementioned “witness peaks” which look like small volcanoes with the tops shaved off flat. The most defining volcanic feature in the soil is basalt, which permeates everything in the appellation. The high amount of potassium and other macronutrients attributed to the basalt is what makes the wines here remarkably salty, smoky and vibrant. Set a little back from the humidity of the lake, the wines are less likely to be affected by botrytis and yet still benefit from said humidity, which protects them against extreme weather fluctuations.

Robert Gilvesy and Marton Ruppert
Robert Gilvesy and Márton Ruppert

The People

Robert Gilvesy founded his winery in 2012, starting with older vineyards from the 1970s and then replanting others in 2015 with a focus on Olaszrizling, Furmint, Rhine Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc. Robert Gilvesy actually grew up on a small farm in Ontario Canada, but as second generation Hungarian, moved to Hungary in 1992. An architect by trade (his amazing home and cellar are testament to this) and familiar with doing business internationally, he decided to settle along the shores of Lake Balaton. Committing both to the science and magic of these volcanic terroirs, he is just getting started while also investing in other properties along the Balaton to start raising up the region as a whole. A true evangelist for all things Hungarian food and wine, Robert Gilvesy leads the association of Volcanic Wines in Hungary and hosts amazing food and wines events at the winery like the annual Bohém Légyott Festival.

annual Bohem Legyott Festival
Annual Bohém Légyott Festival

His partner in winemaking is Márton Ruppert who grew-up in the region, started working in wine by age 11, and then continued to study winemaking at Corvinus University. They have a shared obsession and also allocate time to visit other wine regions together around Europe (Western Slovenia, Mosel, Wachau etc…) to add perspective, insight and generational knowledge that much of Balaton was deprived of during Communism.

Gilvesy vineyards along the shores of Lake Balaton

In The Vineyard

Three main estate plots, all farmed organically, define the character of the wines. Right in front of the cellar house is the 1.3 hectare Tarányi vineyard: 40 year old guyot trained vines, south facing, and planted to Rhine Riesling. An additional 1.2 hectare plot was purchased in 2015. The soils are Pannonian loess chock full of basalt fragments. On the Northern side of Szent György-hegy, the other side of the hill from the winery, is Mogyorós vineyard. Planted in the 1980s and acquired by Gilvesy in 2011, the sandy loam and chunky basalt sois are mostly planted to Sauvignon Blanc. Just southwest of the winery is the Váradi vineyard, most commonly referred to as the ‘Bárányos-dűlő’ (Lamb’s vineyard). Not surprisingly, this 10.5 hectare site has been grazed by lamb, goats, and sheep making it easy to farm organically. With a diverse range of soils, it’s planted to Rhine Riesling, Olaszrizling, Pinot Gris, Furmint and Sauvignon Blanc. Littered with basalt chunks, some areas are more fertile, looser or more compact, but all are south facing and windy making ripeness easy without sacrificing acidity.

Hungarian barrels and stainless steel tanks in the cellar

In The Cellar

The exterior walls, chimney and the 30 meter long cellar are all originally from the Esterházy press house built in the late 18th century. Combining both the new with the old is a theme for the winery, cellar and the wines themselves. All grapes are hand harvested and sorted. Gentle pressing, any movement of the wines, and temperature control is central to the winemaking in both Hungarian barrels and stainless steel. Some wines are fermented with neutral yeasts, others are 100% native, and some (like the Bohém) are combinations. Experiments abound, there is no recipe, and the blends change in response to the vintage.

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